Americans drink more soft drinks than ever before. These popular beverages account for more than 25% of all drinks consumed in the U. S.
More than 15 billion gallons of soda pop were sold in the U.S. in 2000. This works out to over one 12-ounce bottle per day for every man, woman and child.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, kids are heavy consumers of soda pop, and they are guzzling those soft drinks at unprecedented rates.
As soda pop becomes the beverage of choice among the nation's youth, and as soda marketers focus on brand-building among ever-younger consumers, we are all faced with nagging questions:
How healthful are these drinks, which provide a lot of sugars , calories and caffeine but no significant nutritional value? And what happens if you drink a lot of them at a very young age?
One recent independent peer-reviewed study demonstrates a strong link between soda pop consumption and childhood obesity (1).
Explanations of the mechanism through which soda pop may lead to obesity have not been proven yet, although the evidence for them is strong.
Reporting in 'The Lancet', a British medical journal, a team of Harvard researchers presented the first evidence linking soda pop consumption to childhood obesity. They found that 12-year-olds who drank soda pop regularly were more likely to be overweight than those who didn't. For each additional daily serving of sugar-sweetened soda pop consumed during the nearly 2-year study, the risk of obesity increased 1.6 times.(1)
Obesity experts called the Harvard study findings important and praised the study for being prospective. The Harvard researchers spent 19 months following the children, rather than just capturing a snapshot of data from only a single day. It is considered statistically more significant to conduct a study over a long period of time.
Tooth decay is one detrimental health effect of soda pop which even the soft drink industry admits to. In a carefully worded statement, the National Soft Drink Association claims that "there is no scientific evidence that consumption of sugars in soft drinks per se has any negative effect other than dental caries."
Animal studies show that phosphoric acid, a common ingredient in soda pop, can deplete bones of calcium.
And recent human studies suggest that girls who drink more soda pop are more prone to broken bones. The soft drink industry denies that soda plays a role in bone weakening.
Animal studies, mostly involving rats, point to consistent and clear bone loss with the use of soda pop drinks. But as scientists like to point out, rats and humans are not exactly the same.
Phosphorus, which occurs naturally in some foods and is used as an additive in many others, appears to promote the loss of calcium, thus weakening bones. With less calcium available, the bones become more porous and prone to fracture. There is growing concern that even a few cans of soda pop per day can be damaging when they are consumed during the critical bone-building years of adolescence and childhood.
What happens when these soda pop-drinking individuals become middle-aged adults and they end up with osteoporosis and obesity?
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(1) Washington Post February 27, 2001; Page HE10
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